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Ryan's Daughter Movie Review

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1970 – David Lean –

Filmed along the coast of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula, Ryan's Daughter is the story of a young girl's struggles with love and politics in the midst of the 1916 western Irish uprising against the British. Rosy Ryan (Sarah Miles), married to schoolteacher Charles Shaughnessy (Robert Mitchum), has a torrid love affair with Doryan (Christopher Jones), a British military hero, leading the entire town to believe that she is an informant. This is another film in a series of respected works by director David Lean, a list that includes classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Dr. Zhivago (1965). This continued critical and popular acclaim, however, may have led to a touch of “epic-itis,” the feverish assumption that a sufficient number of beautifully rendered shots of natural scenery can make any story impressive. Not quite up to Lean's impeccable standard, Ryan's Daughter is weakened by its empty grandness and artistic pretentiousness.

The lengthy film includes several long combination nature/love scenes which slow the story and detract from the excitement of the Irish rebellion and the lovers' roles in it. In one long and pointless scene, the couple makes love in the woods with only the music of their heavy breathing to accompany shots of trees and creatures of the forest. This scene and others like it clearly strive for lyricism and rapture but risk seeming a near-gratuitous exploration of the new freedom in films in 1970.

The film's strengths lie more in its treatment of the effects of war on the human spirit and the struggle between Irish and British. In one scene, a corporal commends Major Doryan for his bravery on the front lines. While the corporal speaks, the camera focuses on the Major and the sounds of battle echo in the background. We see that this shell-shocked Major is struggling to stay calm as the very real memories of combat threaten again to overwhelm him, the echoing sound effect bringing the drama of wartime heroics and their cost skillfully into the scene. In the larger plot, the west Irish hatred of the British even extends to their willingness to cooperate with the Germans. Plans have been arranged for a German boat in the area to drop boxes of arms and ammunition overboard so that the villagers may gather them up and fight the English stationed among them. The local dislike of Rosy and the knowledge of her English lover, however, directs suspicion her way as a secret informant once the English have been tipped off about the rebellion. The melodrama of the film's stories of love and politics can't help seeming inflated when stretched to epic scale.

Cast: Robert Mitchum (Charles Shaughnessy), Trevor Howard (Father Collins), Christopher Jones (Randolph Doryan), John Mills (Michael), Leo McKern (Tom Ryan), Sarah Miles (Rosy Ryan), Barry Foster (Tim O'Leary), Marie Kean (Mrs. McCardle), Archie O'Sullivan (McCardle), Evin Crowley (Moureen), Douglas Sheldon (Driver), Gerald Sim (Captain), Barry Jackson (Corporal), Des Keogh (Lanky Private) Screenwriter: Robert Bolt Cinematographer: Freddie Young Composer: Maurice Jarre Producer: Anthony Havelock-Allan for Faraway Productions; released by MGM MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 194 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1970: Cinematography, Supporting Actor (John Mills); Nominations: Actress (Sarah Miles), Sound; Golden Globe Awards, 1971: Supporting Actor (John Mills); National Board of Review Awards, 1970: 10 Best Films of the Year.

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